May 17, 2011 3:19 PM ET
Coastal Boats Near Sidney, B.C., by E.J. Hughes,
was sold at auction for $1,140,750
in Vancouver on Tuesday.
In a story that could be straight out of Antiques Roadshow, two paintings by a famous B.C. artist sold for close to $2 million at auction Tuesday night after spending decades hanging in a Vancouver boardroom.
The two paintings by E.J. Hughes were originally bought by the B.C. College of Physicians for a few hundred dollars back in 1952.
Under the direction of art lover Dr. Jack Parnell, the college paid Hughes less than $500 for his painting Coastal Boats Near Sidney, B.C.
On Tuesday evening, it sold for $1,140,750 (all prices include auction house premium) at the Heffel Fine Art Auction House spring sale.
The three-foot by four-foot canvas depicts two coastal steamers that once sailed between Victoria, Nanaimo and Vancouver.
Mouth of the Courtenay River
is one of two E.J. Hughes paintings
the B.C. College of Physicians
bought in 1952.
Auctioneer David Heffel says the canvas is now considered by many art experts to be Hughes's greatest piece, which made Tuesday's auction "an extremely rare opportunity" for collectors. Previously, the 1946 Hughes painting Fishboats, Rivers Inlet sold for a record $920,000 in 2004.
"You'll never get an opportunity to buy Emily Carr's most famous paintings or Lawren Harris's best paintings, so it's a real once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he explained.
"This work really encapsulates everything that a Hughes connoisseur wants to find in Hughes's work."
An untitled work by
sold for $1,082,250
in Vancouver Tuesday
Another Hughes work owned by the college called Mouth of the Courtenay River brought in $789,750 Tuesday.
Heffel said the paintings have been hanging in the College of Physicians offices for nearly 60 years, but proceeds from their sale will now help pay for the college's new offices.
A painting by Jean-Paul Riopelle, one of Canada's best-known abstract artists, also went for more than six figures.
Sans titre, a 114 cm x 145 cm work completed by the Montreal artist in 1955, sold for $1,082,250.
Other highlights of Heffel's sale, held at the Vancouver Convention Centre, include:
- Jean Paul Lemieux's paintings Dimanche, which sold for $819,000, and Les Moniales, which set a new artist record when it sold for $1,023,750.
- David Milne's oil canvas Woman and Bright Trees, West Saugerties, NY, which fetched $409,500.
- A.Y. Jackson's Smart River, Alaska Highway, which more than doubled its high estimate of $175,000 when it sold for $479,700.
- The Lawren Harris oil-on-board painting North Shore, Lake Superior, Pic Island II, which garnered $269,100.
- Emily Carr's early work Gnarled Tree, which sold for $234,000.
Overall, Heffel's spring auction sold $13.6 million of Canadian art.